What colors are the walls in your home painted? You may not even notice anymore, or you only paid attention when you were first picking out paint and moving in. But psychologists and other experts now think that the colors you surround yourself with on a large scale – such as how you paint your various living spaces – will have a profound emotional and psychological effect on your family, evoking different sensations, feelings, and even memories depending on the hue and spectrum.
“Color is a universal, nonverbal language, and we all intuitively know how to speak it,” says Leslie Harrington, a color consultant for luxury home designers in Old Greenwich, Connecticut. “What color you paint your walls isn’t just a matter of aesthetics. It’s a tool that can be leveraged to affect emotions and behavior.”
According to this color theory, each color elicits a unique emotional response in the viewer, impacting their feelings but also affecting behaviors, motivations, and even health through the mind-body physiological connection.
Let’s look a host of colors we might find painted on the walls of your home and find out what they mean, and then tips on what colors are best for certain rooms:
Psychological effect: Passion, love, immediacy, energy
Brighter shades of red will increase energy but also feelings of hunger, while darker shades are more calming and add space, or immersion, to a room. Red rooms can increase blood circulation, breathing rates, and metabolism, but also may remind some of blood or war if too dark or overwhelming.
Psychological effect: Cheer, attention, optimism, fresh, energy, happy, friendly, warning
Yellow is a great color for some rooms – but not others. It does activate feelings of energy, lightness, and happiness, but it can also trigger the anxiety center in the brain and flash warning. Lighter shades are fresher and more optimistic, while darker and more muted gold shades add a sense of antiquity.
Psychological effect: Natural, stable, prosperous, soothing, balance, restful, envy, jealousy
When organic and soft, green tones represent nature, bringing on the soothing and harmonious feelings of the outdoors. But when too dark or bold, they can also take over a room, triggering thoughts about money and prosperity (stressful) or even negative emotions of jealousy.
Psychological effect: Serene, trustworthy, inviting, smart, professional, stability
Blue is not a common color around the house except maybe in bedrooms or dens, but can illicit feelings of calmness, serenity, and even trust. Light blues the color of water are more refreshing and freeing, while darker blues are stately and important. But blues are almost never found in kitchens and dining rooms because the color acts as an appetite suppressant.
Psychological effect: Luxurious, mysterious, romantic, royal, sadness, arrogance
Purple is the color of royalty, luxury, and even romance. It rarely should be used in an entire room or else it could turn somber and morose, but accent walls could set the mood in the bedroom or offer an air of elegance around the house.
Psychological effect: Earthy, sturdy, rustic, grounding, organic
When it comes to home décor, brown walls are usually used with very light hues, like beige, sand, and tan. The right brown shade can add calming simplicity to walls and make the space look bigger, nicely accentuating the room’s white trim. However, hues that are too dark brown close off a room and make it feel smaller.
Psychological effect: Neutral, formal, gloomy
Gray is one of the most interesting colors because it emits an aura of neutrality. So painting a room (or exterior of your house) gray will accentuate all other colors against it, but this neutral color can also turn somber and gloomy if the tones are too dark.
Psychological effect: Clean, virtuous, healthy, airy, lightness
White contains every color in the spectrum, and likewise, white paints run the gambit of just about every shade or tint of other colors from yellows to grays, pinks to greens, and hundreds of tan-whites. But no matter what shade, it gives a clean, open, spacious impression, balancing a room while maintaining neutrality.
So which colors are right for each room in your house?
You want comfort, familiarity, and conversation in this living space, so try warm tones like reds, yellows, and oranges, and natural earth tones like brown and beige, or even gray.
The foyer is actually a great place to introduce people inside your home, creating a smooth transition by blending your exterior house color with the colors they’ll find in your living room, hallways, and other interior areas.
Subtle reds, burnt oranges, and yellows are ideal colors for a kitchen because they actually stimulate appetite (that's why every fast food restaurant uses that color scheme!). While many people paint their kitchen off-white or some sort of tan, you may find that a little bland and uninspiring in the best room of the house.
Once again, red shades work great in the dining room because they are energetic, signal food time to our minds, and also stimulate conversation.
The bedroom should be relaxing, calming, and invite slumber, so use hues that are deeper and darker, whether they’re navy blues, forest greens, or dark gray. If it’s a small bedroom, yellow will make it look bigger.
Whites and off-whites work great in the bathroom, where they denote cleanliness and purity. For a children’s bathroom, you can have more fun with yellows, turquoise, or other light and bright shades.
There are really no rules when painting your children’s bedrooms, but just make sure they are not the brightest of shades because that may actually deter them from falling asleep.
Try a nice sage green, which is the color of concentration, or mature navy blues for rooms with good natural light.